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Thursday, March 10, 2011

There's no buying Tressel and Ohio St.'s defense for coach's violation - Scandal tarnishes Tressel, Ohio State

Scandal tarnishes Tressel, Ohio State
Mark Schlabach www.espn.com

"The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour."
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel included that Japanese proverb on Page 193 of his book, "The Winners Manual For The Game of Life."
Eight pages later, there's this nugget from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: "It takes less time to do the right thing than to explain why you did it wrong."
Ohio State suspended coach Jim Tressel for the first two games of the 2011 season.
In 10 years as the Buckeyes' coach, Tressel has often showed us his teams can't win big games.
On Tuesday night, Tressel showed us he can't win the big news conferences, either.
Tressel, who has guided the Buckeyes to seven Big Ten titles and the 2002 BCS national championship, wanted us to believe that he was different from other successful head coaches.
From his character-based books to his conservative sweater vests, Tressel wanted us to believe that he's a straight shooter who follows the rules.
On Tuesday night, we learned Tressel isn't any different from a lot of coaches in college football. He's apparently more concerned about winning games and championships than following rules and doing things the right way.
In fact, Tressel might be even worse than other coaches who are corrupting college athletics. He won't admit he's wrong even after he has been caught.
Facing the biggest crisis of his career, Tressel never once apologized for knowingly breaking NCAA rules during a news conference on the Ohio State campus on Tuesday night. Worse, Tressel never owned up to not telling his bosses or NCAA investigators that he was aware that at least two of his players might have accepted improper benefits from the owner of a tattoo parlor in Columbus, Ohio.
When Tressel was asked if he was worried the scandal would tarnish his reputation, he said he's always been his biggest critic.
"I don't think less of myself at this moment," Tressel said.
How's that for looking in the mirror?
Ohio State officials say Tressel broke NCAA rules because he didn't tell athletics director Gene Smith or the school's compliance office about e-mails he received from an attorney in April 2010, which indicated Buckeyes players were receiving improper benefits.
Tressel never even mentioned the e-mails nine months later, when in December the NCAA suspended five Ohio State players, including star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, for the first five games of the 2011 season for selling memorabilia and awards from the tattoo parlor owner.
Tressel's punishment? Ohio State suspended him for the first two games of the upcoming season and fined him $250,000.
I'm guessing the already short-handed Buckeyes will be able to survive home games against Akron and Toledo without their coach, and I'm sure Tressel will make due with the rest of his $3.5 million annual salary.
As bad as Tressel looks in college football's latest scandal, Ohio State looks even worse. The school that has long prided itself on academic and athletic excellence looks no different than the football factories it has long looked down its nose at.
The NCAA might impose further sanctions against Tressel and Ohio State, but it's clear the school won't hold Tressel accountable for his actions.
Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee said he never considered firing Tressel.
"No, are you kidding me?" Gee said. "Let me be very clear. I'm just hoping the coach doesn't dismiss me."
Smith was equally as supportive.
"Wherever we end up at the end of the day, Jim Tressel is our football coach," Smith said. "All the speculation about him being terminated is pure speculation. This case, in my view, does not warrant it."
Tressel already hoodwinked the NCAA into allowing Pryor and the other suspended players to participate in the the Allstate Sugar Bowl, instead of starting their five-game suspensions immediately. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany even went to bat for the suspended OSU five.
Without them, the Buckeyes probably didn't stand a chance against Arkansas. With them, the Buckeyes won a 31-26 thriller.
After nine straight losses, the Buckeyes finally beat an SEC school. Apparently, Tressel even learned to cheat as well as they do.
If you believe Tressel, he never spoke up because he was asked to keep the information confidential by the attorney who e-mailed him. Tressel also said he didn't want to jeopardize an ongoing federal drug trafficking case related to the tattoo parlor.
"It was obviously tremendously concerning," Tressel said. "Quite honestly, I was scared."
Jim Tressel won't be on the sideline for Ohio State's 2011 games against Akron and Toledo.But Tressel wasn't scared enough to tell his bosses about the problem. Worse, he never sat down players who were receiving illegal benefits from a man at the center of a federal drug case.
"If you all of the sudden sit down some players who have earned the opportunity to play, there are a whole set of new questions which are going to be asked," Tressel said.
Tressel is not only guilty of concealing potential NCAA rules violations, but he's apparently also guilty of misleading his own school's compliance officials.
According to the report, OSU officials interviewed the suspended Buckeyes players on Dec. 16. After those interviews, Tressel was asked if he had been contacted or knew anything about the tattoo parlor. The report says Tressel admitted "he had received a tip about general rumors pertaining to a certain [number] of his players, [but] that information had not been specific, and it pertained to their off-field choices."
Tressel committed two of college athletics' cardinal sins: covering up a scandal and then misleading investigators.
Ohio State could have easily terminated Tressel under the terms of his contract.
Instead, OSU's message was clear: Keep beating Michigan and winning Big Ten championships, and we've got your back.
For the record, Michigan's football team hasn't beaten Ohio State in 2,663 days.
But the Wolverines won on Tuesday.
At least they had fired their cheating coach.

There's no buying Tressel and Ohio St.'s defense for coach's violation
Stewart Mandel www.si.com
Jim Tressel's Ohio State teams annually field one of the best defenses in the nation. Jim Tressel's personal defense for why he withheld knowledge of potential NCAA violations would be fortunate to give up 50 points per game.
Let's be honest: No one but the most scarlet-and-gray blinded die-hard could possibly buy the explanation being given by the coach and his employer behind an inexplicable lack of judgment that will cost him at least two games and $250,000. It's thinner than the Buckeyes' depth chart for their first five games next season.
According to Ohio State's letter to the NCAA self-reporting Tressel's violation, an attorney twice e-mailed The Senator last April warning him that two of his players had sold memorabilia to the owner of a local tattoo parlor involved in a criminal investigation. He told the e-mailer he'd look into it (or more specifically, "I will keep pounding these kids hoping they grow up ..."), and in fact began a correspondence in which the attorney shared more information.
And then, Tressel did ... nothing. Well, at least nothing that would have put his players' eligibility at risk. Concerned more at the possibility his players might be mixed up in a federal drug investigation, he admitted, "I probably didn't give quite as much thought to the NCAA end of things as I read [the initial e-mail]."
One can certainly understand the concern for his players' safety. But no rational person can possibly accept the fact that the "NCAA end of things" failed to dawn on him for another ... oh, eight months. Or how he could in good conscience sign an NCAA Certificate of Compliance form three months later asserting "he has reported any knowledge of possible violations to the institution."
But most gallingly of all, how, in December, when law enforcement officials notified Ohio State of that very same memorabilia it found at the now-raided tattoo parlor, Tressel still declined to inform his employer that, oh, by the way, someone e-mailed me about this eight months ago. Not until the university itself uncovered the e-mails in mid-January while attending to some other matter did he finally fess up.
When confronted, he claimed he was only trying to protect the confidentiality of the attorney. Last we checked, attorney-client privilege usually works in the other direction, not to mention compliance departments happily welcome anonymous tips. He also worried about infringing on the criminal investigation. That part's more plausible, up until the point where the investigation was broadcast to the world once Ohio State suspended those players.
Tressel is an exceptional football coach. He does highly admirable work in his community. He's inspired countless people.
But he broke a rule. End of story. The "extenuating circumstances" Ohio State is trotting out in his defense are simply not believable. But you wouldn't know it from the way athletic director Gene Smith and president Gordon Gee discussed them Tuesday night.
On the contrary, Tressel's bosses will have you believe that this "major" violation (official lingo) is merely a minor blemish by an otherwise exemplary human being. "Jim Tressel is our football coach and we trust him," said Smith. "This case does not warrant [his firing]." Asked whether he'd considered dismissing Tressel, OSU's notorious bowtie-clad cheerleader, Gee, offered this sarcastic gem: "No. Are you kidding me? I just hope the coach doesn't dismiss me."
Tressel's infraction may or may not merit termination, but it's certainly more serious than Smith and Gee would have you believe -- particularly in the current NCAA environment. Tennessee's basketball coach, Bruce Pearl, was suspended eight games, docked significant salary and may still face more punishment for misleading investigators. Former Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant lost nearly an entire season for the same. Tressel withheld important information for nearly nine months yet, if the school has its way, will be back in time to face Miami on Sept. 17.
Here, it's important to note semantics. At no point in the school's self-disclosure, or during Tuesday's press conference, did anyone explicitly say Tressel lied to the NCAA, like Pearl and Bryant. The charge they were dealt, however, was unethical conduct. This sure looks, smells and feels the same.
Tressel's case will now work its way through the NCAA disciplinary assembly line, where eventually, the Committee on Infractions could decide whether to add to the school's self-imposed penalties. Given the circumstances, it's going to face significant pressure to do just that. But Tressel has one of the nation's most powerful athletic departments and most influential commissioners (the Big Ten's Jim Delany) in his corner. The school has already begun posturing to minimize the damages.
At his press conference Tuesday, Smith held up his institution as a model for collaboration. Notice we uncovered and reported this violation ourselves, just like we did in December, he said. Notice how quickly we sought out to the NCAA's assistance, unlike some schools (cough, cough, Auburn) that sit on potential violations for months, just like we did in December. Look how quickly we worked to resolve this, just like December.
But lest we forget, December was an egg on the NCAA's face. Rarely has it caught more flack for a decision that it did the one to allow Terrelle Pryor and his cohorts to play in the Sugar Bowl. In fact they gave off the perception of having brokered some sort of plea-bargain with the Buckeyes. They'll certainly want to avoid that appearance again, which could ultimately mean a harsher penalty for Tressel.
But as Gee so vividly reminded us, Jim Tressel is one powerful figure. Will the Committee on Infractions be so bold as to force Ohio State to terminate him? Probably not. All you can do is keep pounding these coaches, hoping they grow up.

Jim Tressel hit with two-game suspension, $250K fine
Posted by John Taylor on March 8, 2011, 9:16 PM EST
Less than 24 hours after a report emerged that levied fairly significant allegations against Ohio State’s Jim Tressel, the school has announced that their head football coach is indeed guilty of committing a major NCAA violation. And is facing a rather substantial initial punishment from the school, with further sanctions from the NCAA looming as a very real possibility.

In a press conference Tuesday evening, athletic director Gene Smith confirmed that Tressel has been suspended for the first two games of the 2011 season and fined $250,000 for failing to take action when notified last April that his players may have received impermissible benefits. Tressel received the information regarding his players via email from an attorney connected to a federal drug investigation.

Those emails were discovered Jan. 13 of 2011 during an unrelated search by the school.

“Coach Tressel,” OSU’s report to the NCAA reads, ”received emails from an attorney that provided specific information about two-student athletes selling memorabilia to a local tattoo parlor owner. These emails also indicated that one student-athlete may have received free and/or discounted services at a tattoo parlor. Although Coach Tressel had the information, he did not inform institutional officials.”

Tressel was subsequently informed by the same individual that two student-athletes — it’s unclear from the report whether they are the same two student-athletes referred to earlier — were selling their championship rings. The email correspondence between Tressel and the attorney continued after the initial conversation, with the last email found to have been sent by Tressel on June 6.

“I am sorry and disappointed this happened. At the time the situation occurred, I thought I was doing the right thing,” Tressel said. “I understand my responsibility to represent Ohio State and the game of football. I apologize to any and all of the people I have let down. I will grow from this experience.”

Tressel was found by OSU to have violated NCAA Bylaw 10.1, failing “to follow the institution’s protocol for reporting of violations by not informing compliance or other institutional administrators of the information he received beginning in April 2010.”

The internal investigation found that Tressel had at least three opportunities “to provide information relative to the NCAA violation reported in December but failed to do so.”

i. Signed the NCAA Certificate of Compliance Form on September 13, 2010, indicated he has reported any knowledge of possible violations to the institutions;
ii. Did not report the information in the emails or his knowledge of potential violations to the institution in early December 2010 when he initially learned from University officials on or around December 9 that information had been received from the Department of Justice regarding student-athletes potentially violating NCAA legislation for selling memorabilia and receiving discounted services; and
iii. Did not report the information in the emails or his knowledge of potential violations on December 16, 2010, when asked by institutional officials about his knowledge of the student-athletes’ involvement in these activities. More specifically, while conducting its inquiry, institutional officials interviewed the six involved student-athletes. Following the interviews, University officials informally questioned Coach Tressel about his knowledge of this information. When Coach Tressel was asked if he had been contacted about this matter or knew anything about it, he replied that while he had received a tip about general rumors pertaining to certain of his players, that information had not been specific, and it pertained to their off-field choices. He implied that the tip related to the social decisions/choices being made by certain student-athletes. He added he did not recall from whom he received the tip. he also stated that he did not know that any items had been seized.

“I am disappointed that we find ourselves in this situation. I want to thank the NCAA for being responsive and working collaboratively with us on this case. We ask Buckeye Nation to be patient as we resolve this matter and we thank them for all the support that they provide to our programs,” said Athletics Director Gene Smith. “I think everyone knows how I feel about Jim Tressel. There is no better coach at developing young people than Jim.”

As part of the suspension, which will be for home games against Akron and Toledo, Tressel will be precluded from participating in any game-day activities, being in the facilities where the games are played during game day, or having any contact with members of his coaching staff while the games are ongoing. Additionally, Tressel will be publicly reprimanded and must issue a public apology.

These sanctions were levied by the school, and are separate from any penalties that may be imposed down the road by the NCAA.

Also, to clear up some of the speculation, Smith also shot down rumors that Tressel would resign or be dismissed, stating that, while they’re disappointed that they’re in this situation, Tressel is his football coach and they trust him implicitly. Tressel was asked if he ever thought of resigning.

“No,” the coach said.

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